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by Carole Schwalm A large plot of a variety of vegetables growing in a garden.

Plants, so they say, do not know the difference between chemical and organic fertilizers. I don’t know about you, but I worry about who humans, pets, wildlife and water supplies and the environment in general respond to chemicals. I opt for organic.

What are your choices? Last year we experienced lots of success with fish fertilizer. The use of fish fertilizer is as old as ancient Egypt and in North America dates back to use by the indigenous population. ‘Modern’ folks ‘discovered’ the value of something around for thousands of years, in the 20th century.

A picture of a large fish swimming in an aquarium. Fish fertilizer contains nitrogen that plants find necessary for chlorophyll production. Its addition it stimulates microorganisms in the soil, and they also help feed plants. It is safe to handle, controls plant diseases and plant stress to environmental (weather) conditions. What’s not to like! Not enough? Well, here’s more. You enjoy increased production. The flavor and sweetness in fruits and vegetables will be enhanced. Your flowers are even more beautiful. Your old lawn has new life. Plants have healthier leaves and roots.

There are several different types of fish fertilizer:
Close up picture of a flower in a flower garden. Fish Meal on the label means that the fish carcasses are heated and then ground up. Most are high in nitrogen, so good for vegetables, but they may have a stronger odor (important if using indoors or in a greenhouse). Meal is beneficial in the spring, for example in a flower bed.

If the label says Fish Emulsion you have the leftovers from the fish meal process. This may dissolve the nutrients left from the meal-process. The caveat here is that the fish, harvested strictly for fertilizer, may be taken from toxic areas. While less expensive, you risk the challenges with chemicals.

If the label says Fish Hydrolysates, the process involves enzymes, and no heat, and this means that nothing is removed, including beneficial fish oils.

The above increases the importance of your knowing how the fertilizer is made: high heat (then there could be a loss of potency). A hydrolysis process, tells you that nutrients remain, and you have the oils. Emulsion, to me, seems to be a gamble.

For more information, read how our organic fertilizer experiment turned out in our Fertilizers & Compost article.

Share your organic fertilizer experience or if you'd like more information.